DOD reinforces 'virtual Pentagon'

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"Rethinking Plan B"

Soon after the Pentagon was attacked Sept. 11, officials quickly realized that they needed to re-examine the contingency plans they had in place.

Once dubbed the "virtual Pentagon" or the "distributed Pentagon," the effort — now called the Command Communications Survivability Project to better reflect its purpose — remains largely unchanged, said Tom Kupiek, project manager for the initiative.

Defense Department officials have said that the terrorist attacks were a wake-up call and spurred a significant redesign of DOD's information technology contingency plans. The plans were updated before the Year 2000 date change but did not go far enough, they said.

After Sept. 11, many people realized that their data was vulnerable despite fixes and backups. Among the problems DOD encountered was a computing environment with numerous single points of failure — applications or databases that, if removed, could not be recovered and critical network links that, if down, could not be worked around.

The Army, for example, lost a significant amount of budget data when the Sept. 11 attacks destroyed part of the Pentagon.

The Command Communications Survivability Project will bring about considerable changes, such as creating redundancies, with backup sites located away from the Pentagon so that a backup network would be ready if the main network went down.

The project is linked to the reconstruction of the Pentagon and, in fact, falls under the responsibility of the organization that is overseeing the rebuilding.

Kupiek called the changes to the Pentagon's contingency plans "extensive." There is a team working on the initiative six days a week that focuses on logistics, designs and plans. "This will continue for some time," he said.

"The previous Pentagon contingency plans were built to support extensive catastrophic events," Kupiek said. "The new plans incorporate lessons learned from the [Sept. 11] events and the system shortfalls that became evident during the crisis. The [Command Communications Survivability Project] will mitigate threats and create a response system that is not bound by brick and mortar."

DOD officials expect to complete the project within 12 months to 48 months, depending on the progress of each phase, Kupiek said. He would not go into detail about the phases, however, because that is sensitive information.

But he said that the plans cover wide-ranging issues.

"We are working on all aspects, very similar to the Pentagon renovation efforts to date, incorporating information technology systems, power, environmental controls, physical and other types of security," he said.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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